A06Y13 Freedom of Information Act going through the shredder

Freedom of Information Bill promotes accountability — Parly

Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter
The Freedom of Information Bill is a positive departure from the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act as it promotes transparency and accountability.

This was said by the Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Information, Media and Broadcasting Services in its report on the Bill presented in the National Assembly on Wednesday.
The Freedom of Information Bill was gazetted in July and will repeal AIPPA.

The Bill guarantees freedom of expression and of the media, and access to information held by Government or its agencies as required by Sections 61 and 62 of the Constitution.

In its report, presented by the chairman of the Committee and Binga North representative Mr Prince Dubeko Sibanda, the Committee said there was, however, scope for improving the Bill to conform with provisions of the Constitution
“The Freedom of Information Bill is commendable as it has some positive departures from the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), including measures aimed at promoting transparency and accountability.

“However, there remains other issues related to the accessibility of information that must be given immediate attention to bring the Bill in line with Section 62 of the Constitution,” Mr Sibanda said.

The Committee recommended that entities should be pro-active in providing information and not wait for requests.
“It was recommended that there is need for pro-active disclosure of information rather than entities only providing information upon request. It was also recommended that public entities must draft policies, manuals on public rights and privileges, and other documentation that detail handling of information requests and how to resolve complaints relating to access to information,” Mr Sibanda said.

“It was recommended that the Bill should provide for the time period which records and information relating to deliberations and functions of Cabinet and its Committee may be declassified and shared, 10 to 15 years would suffice for the declassification.”

He added that the Bill should also be amended so that requests for information should not only be made in written form, but also verbally.

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